Roberts: God Made An Implicit Covenant Of Works With Adam

1. Of God’s Covenant of Works, with the First Adam, and his natural seed before the fall.


GOD was pleased to enter into covenant with the first Adam, before his fall. Under the term, Adam, Scripture sometimes comprehends both sexes, both Adam and his wife. And if any shall contend that God entered into covenant with both Adam and we at once, as the complete root of mankind, I shall not much gainsay: and yet this will not so easily be proved, nor know I any inconvenience that would follow, should it be denied, the woman coming of Adam as well as any of his posterity. Nor am I ignorant that some are of opinion, that Adam received the covenant alone, and was to teach it, and did teach it to his wife, which opinion hath the more weight, because when God forbids the Eating of the tree of knowledge under pain of death, (wherein the promise of life contrariwise is implied,) he speaks only in the singular number, viz. to Adam only.

But how may it be evidenced, That God entered into covenant with the first Adam, even into a Covenant of Works, before the Fall?

Answ. Though it be not positively and plainly said in Scripture, that God gave Adam a Covenant of Works, before his fall: and though the characters and footsteps of this covenant are not so expressly discovered in Holy Writ, as of some others; yet notwithstanding, upon sundry Scripture-grounds and considerations, it may be evinced sufficiently. As,

From the Inscription of the Covenant of Works in Adam’s heart. Before the Fall God wrote the Covenant of Works, viz. The Substance of the Moral Law, perfectly in Adam’s heart; and in so doing, entered into Covenant with him. Here are three thing in this Position to be cleared; viz.

  1. That the Moral Law is the Covenant of Works.
  2. That this Moral Law was perfectly written in Adams heart before the Fall.
  3. That God in Writing the Moral Law in his heart, entered into Covenant of Works with him. 1. That the Moral Law (abstractly and precisely in its self considered, without the additionals, viz. the preface, ceremonial law, &c. jointly promulgated with it in Horeb) is the Covenant of Works is manifest;

(1) Because, the Moral Law (by which is the knowledge of sin, and which works wrath) is styled by the Apostle “The Law of works,” and is set in opposition to “The Law of Faith.” Now this Law of Works, and Law of Faith, amount in effect to as much as the Covenant of works, and Covenant of Faith.

(2) Because Righteousness and life were at first by the Moral Law, and should have been so still, had not the Law become unable to give Righteousness and life, in that it was weak through the flesh, man through Sin being unable to keep it. Now the Law, requiring obedience, and promising life upon that condition, must needs be a covenant, and that a Covenant of Works: Works being the proper Condition of it.

2. That this Moral Law for Substance was perfectly written in Adams heart before the Fall, is certain;

(1) Because, Man was made in God’s image upright, and perfect. And consequently was thoroughly furnished with all accomplishments of upright and perfect Humane nature: and particularly with the Moral Law, that Law of Nature; The substance whereof was engraved both in his mind, by natural light, knowing it; and in his will, by natural integrity conforming unto it.

(2) Because, The Work of the Law remains imperfectly written in some dim characters in the very hearts of pagans and heathens since the fall; They doing by nature the things contained in the Law, and being a Law unto themselves, without the Law of God written. Whence we may strongly conclude that much more before the fall the Moral Law was perfectly written in Adam’s heart, there being in him no sin to deface it in the least degree.

3. That, God, in writing the Moral Law in Adam’s heart, entered into Covenant of Works with him. viz. by real impressions upon his heart: though not by verbal expressions to the ear. For by this Law written in Adam’s heart, he had laid before him, what obedience was required and assented to on Adam’s part: And what recompense should be performed on God’s part. And this was at least an implicit, if not an explicit, covenanting.

2. From God’s express prescription of a positive Law unto Adam in his innocent State. God’s positive Law is laid down in these words, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every Tree of the Garden you may freely eat: But of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat thereof thou shall surely die.” Here are parties covenanting, and agreeing upon terms, viz. God and Adam: Here are also terms agreed upon and matters covenanted reciprocally by these parties; Adam on his part was to be obedient to God, in forbearing to Eat of the Tree of Knowledge only: God on his part, for present, permits Adam to eat of all other Trees of the Garden; And for future (in his explicit threatening of death in case of disobedience,) implicitly promises life in case of obedience herein. Now where there are parties covenanting and agreeing upon terms: And terms mutually agreed upon by those parties, as here; there’s the substance of an express covenant, though it be not formally and in express words called a covenant.

—Francis Roberts, The Mystery And Marrow Of The Bible (London, 1657), 19–21 [Spelling and punctuation modernized].

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